As a veteran myself, I try to make a post every year on Veteran's Day. My daughter and I raised the flag together one year. I thought that was a good day and a good post. One year I did a salute to veterans. I thought that was pretty good post too. But I'm thinking that this year's post might not be so good.
Here's the deal: Today, I'm struggling with the word "Happy" that always seems to precede "Veteran's Day." I'm okay with thanking vets, flying the flag, and giving an extra few minutes in the day to think about vets and what they have done for this country. But I'm just not relating to the "Happy" part.
This day is an important day for me - not necessarily because I'm proud of serving (though I am) - but because every year in my mind's eye, I visit the memories of men and women that I either served with myself, or shared a moment and felt kinship with since. The feeling I get when I see their faces is a curious mixture of pride, nostalgia, remorse, commitment, friendship, gratitude, and sadness.
As vets, we all share some things in common. Maybe it's a vague "knowing" that comes from setting our own interests aside and allowing ourselves to become part of something that is bigger than individual ambition or ironically, individual freedom. Maybe it comes from having made a commitment to literally die so that others may live, and from the meaning that people in uniform took on after that commitment was made. Maybe it comes from the feeling we get when we look at our kids through eyes that disguise unique knowledge of what this world can do.
I'm not sure what it is, but I do know that "Happy" isn't the word I'd use. What we share is deep, for sure, but it's not light or easy to smile about. I'll save "Happy" for other holidays.
This year, I remember a vet named John. John was my friend. Many years ago, he wore Army green. He served, as I do, well beyond his boot polishing years; and he humped his commitment and integrity into every aspect of his life. I don't think the man understood what life without his commitment and integrity would be. He died of cancer.
John is in good company in my mind. Not only do I preserve his story and a bit of his perspective on life, but he stands beside many whom I have called "friend," who have also stood ready to give everything, and who dedicated their lives to a unique form of service.
Vets do go on with their lives after the service, but they are always aware of one another, of what they were trained to do, of the "stuff" that they share with every other veteran, and of their brothers and sisters in arms who are getting the job done today. There is something sacred about this awareness and the bond that comes with it.
On this Veteran's Day, I simply bow my head, tip my glass, and whisper a quiet "hooah."